Dom Phillips’ family have spoken of their grief over the murder of British journalist and indigenous activist Bruno Pereira, while colleagues said the men’s work will be an inspiration to others.
In a statement released on behalf of Phillips’ sister Sian, brother Gareth and their partners and children, the family thanked those who participated in the 10-day search.
The news and investigative website Repórter Brasil, with which Phillips collaborated, blacked out the top of its front page. “Mourning”, he said. “Repórter Brasil continues to investigate violence against traditional populations in the countryside, as well as against all those who defend you,” he said.
Phillips, 57, and Pereira, 41, went missing on June 5, at the end of a short trip down the Itaquaí River in western Brazil.
Pereira was accompanying Phillips on a reporting trip for a book on sustainable development in the Amazon, but their boat did not arrive as planned in Atalaia do Norte, not far from Brazil’s border with Peru.
During a press briefing on Wednesday evening, regional police chief Eduardo Fontes announced that one of the two men arrested in connection with the couple’s disappearance had confessed to killing them.
The Philips siblings said in their statement that they were particularly grateful for the efforts of indigenous peoples at a time when local authorities were widely seen as having taken a lethargic approach to the disappearance of the men.
In reference to the two men’s partners, Alessandra and Beatriz, the family wrote: “We are heartbroken at the confirmation that Dom and Bruno have been murdered and send our deepest condolences to Alessandra, Beatriz and the other family members. brazilian of the two men. We are grateful to everyone who participated in the search, especially the Indigenous groups who worked tirelessly to find evidence of the attack.
The statement continued: ‘In due course we will offer our views on the courageous lives and important work of these remarkable men, but at this time we ask that media representatives allow the family to keep busy. deprived of what happened to their beloved Dom.
“We thank the many people who have joined us in urging authorities to step up the search and those who have reached out with protections of comfort and sympathy.”
The suspect who confessed to involvement in the murder of Phillips and Pereira informed police on Tuesday of the location of the bodies and he joined investigators in recovering them on Wednesday.
The location, an area known as Lago do Preguiça, is 1h40 by boat from the river town of Atalaia do Norte and 3km on foot through dense forest.
Phillips’ wife, Alessandra Sampaio, released a statement on Wednesday evening in which she spoke of her relief that the bodies had been found after an agonizing week and a half.
“This tragic outcome puts an end to the anguish of not knowing where Dom and Bruno are,” she wrote.
“Now we can take them home and say goodbye with love. Today we also begin our quest for justice. I hope the inquiries will exhaust all possibilities and provide definitive answers on all relevant details as soon as possible.
Pereira’s wife, Beatriz Matos, tweeted“Now that the spirits of Bruno roam the forest and spread among us, our strength is much greater.”
Guardian editor Katharine Viner said she was “deeply saddened”.
“Dom was an outstanding journalist and a long-time contributor to The Guardian,” she said. “His courageous and humane journalism has done so much to bring the stories of Brazil and Latin America to a global audience, through the pages of the Guardian and other news outlets.
“Bruno Pereira was a renowned defender of the rights of the indigenous peoples of Brazil and totally committed to the traditional peoples of the Amazon. We at the Guardian are truly sorry to hear this heartbreaking news and all of our thoughts are with the families and friends of Dom and Bruno.
Jonathan Watts, the Guardian’s global environment editor, said he hoped the two men’s lives would be an inspiration to those who cared about the Amazon.
“It’s a horror story that will chill anyone who’s a journalist, anyone who cares about the Amazon, indigenous peoples, our planetary life support systems,” Watts said. “But I hope it inspires rather than deters editors and reporters, so there’s even more attention to the stories that Dom cared about.
“I really hope that the work started by Dom can be continued and amplified. And that would be the only way for me that something decent could come out of something so monstrous.
Pat Venditti, executive director of Greenpeace UK, hailed Phillips and Pereira as “brave, passionate and determined men”.
In a statement, he said the men “were murdered while doing their vital work of shedding light on the daily threats that indigenous peoples in Brazil face as they defend their land and their rights.” .
Venditti accused Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro of giving “political and moral license to predatory activities in and around indigenous lands”.
“The greatest tribute we can pay to Bruno and Dom now is to continue their vital work until all the peoples of Brazil and their forests are fully protected,” the Greenpeace official added.